Denver kids get bicycles — and a lesson in safety

Saturday afternoon, some of the world’s best cyclists kicked off Stage Three of the Colorado Classic —  a grueling 81 mile out-and-back course from Denver to Gilpin County.

Saturday morning, however, was all about getting kids involved as Mayor Michael Hancock led a mile-long youth bike ride.

Before the ride, kids and volunteers assembled 25 new, bright green Huffys and the kids who received them were fitted with helmets. The bike winners were chosen at random from John Amesse Elementary School — a northeast Denver school that demonstrates high financial need, with 96 percent of its students in the free or reduced-cost lunch program.

Liliana Hernandez and her 9-year-old son Adrian Garces were thrilled when the principal called to offer them a spot at the event.

“Yes,” said Hernandez. “Very much so, this will help us to be more active.”

DaVita Inc., a health and wellness company that specializes in kidney care, sponsored the bike parade while Bicycle Colorado, a nonprofit organization, hosted the event.

The two organizations have partnered to give away more than 1,000 bikes to youth in Colorado in the past year.

Before cutting the ribbon at the start/finish line and hopping on an adult three-wheeler, Mayor Hancock talked about how health and accessibility were fueling his initiatives for the city.

“Events like these are helping us to transition our city, our region, into a multi-modal state,” he said. “We want kids here to grow up and say, ‘Maybe I don’t need to buy a car.’ This is more than a bike ride. It’s showing people of Colorado how important it is to be healthy and well.”

Eleven-year-old Carson Smith crossed the finish line first and gave a big smile when he realized he had won. “It’s my first race,” he said.

After the race kids could head over to the festival’s kid zone, where education and safety were the goals.

Mo McCanna with Bicycle Colorado managed a safety station where kids were measured for a correct helmet fit, learned about safety checks, street signs and signals. They also practiced turns.

There was also a snail ride, where kids learned how to ride slowly and practiced quick, safe stops.